November 2, 2010 – Missing Women Commission of Inquiry to Hold Community Engagement Forums in Vancouver and Prince George

VANCOUVER – The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry will hold community engagement forums to hear from residents of B.C. who have been impacted by the tragedy of the missing and murdered women.

Commissioner Wally Oppal said the community engagement forums – one in Vancouver and another in Prince George will give people the opportunity to come forward and speak about the effect these events have had on their lives. Dates, venues and the format of the forums will be announced soon.

“It seems to me that understanding the full impact of these events on communities will help the Commission focus its inquiry more clearly on the most important issues once the public hearings begin,” said Mr. Oppal.

He added that while a disproportionate number of the missing and murdered women were from the Aboriginal community, representatives of all communities should feel welcome to come forward to participate in the community engagement forums.

Mr. Oppal said he would use the forums to describe the role of the Commission, clarify its terms of reference and seek community input on procedural matters.

“In seeking input from the community, I not only hope to encourage feedback that can be realistically covered within the Commission’s mandate, but also find ways to deal with issues that are raised and that are plainly outside of the scope of the Commission’s work,” said Mr. Oppal.

He added that the community engagement forums would not take the place of formal hearings of the Commission, which are expected to begin in Vancouver early next year.

It was also announced today that applications for standing to participate in the Commission’s evidentiary hearings are now being accepted until November 30, 2010. Details are available in the “Practices and Procedures” section of the Commission’s newly launched website: www.missingwomeninquiry.ca

The Commission was appointed by the British Columbia provincial government to inquire into the conduct of police investigations of women reported missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside between January 23, 1997 and February 5, 2002. The Commission’s terms of reference also allow it to inquire into the investigation of missing women and suspected multiple murders throughout the province.

Specifically, the Commission will examine the decision by the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch on January 27, 1998 to stop legal proceedings against Robert William Pickton on charges of attempted murder, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and aggravated assault.